“Not all those who wander are lost.” This is one of my all time favorite quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien, who also happens to be one of my all time favorite authors. You’ve probably seen the quote floating around Pinterest or other social sites, and it seems to resonate with a significant portion of our generation. I think this strikes a chord within the hearts of so many because Tolkien understood the innate desire for a life full of adventure and the natural tendency to want to explore the world. Just look at The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (where the quote is from)-these books appeal to a deep desire for a life full of adventure. The characters are a part of this epic adventure and along the way discover many facets about their own character and strength of will, and also their relationships with others.
I only bring this up because I feel like I am in a season of life where I am craving adventure and new experiences. I want to meet people and learn and grow from them. I desire to explore-whether my city, state, country or world, I want any and all of those. There is this deep longing within me. I find a lot of comfort and encouragement from this short little quote from Tolkien. I feel like I am just wandering, unsure of where to go next. But I’m not lost. By the world’s standards, it may appear that I am indeed lost, but I know that I am firmly rooted in Christ and along for the adventure that he offers to me each morning.
I’m honestly unsure of where this adventure may lead, but I am confident that I can rest knowing it is in His hands. I am learning a lot about myself in this season of life and it has been reassuring to grow increasingly more confident of who I am as an individual and my identity in Christ.
I recently had a job interview that kind of fell into my lap, so I figured I would give it a shot and at least gain some interview experience from it. It would have been a good job to start out in-a receptionist in a life insurance company downtown. It definitely isn’t the kind of job I would picture myself doing, but I had been feeling the pressure to move forward in life. The interview went great and they asked me to take some personality tests as per company policy. A week later I received a phone call saying I would need to discuss my results with someone from corporate. I was incredibly intimidated and not particularly looking forward to an hour long phone interview with a stranger.
But can I just tell you? It ended up being such a gift! The woman I spoke to, Emily, saw on my resume that I had been involved with Young Life and it turned out she is a Christian as well. That opened up a whole new level of honesty that allowed me to feel more comfortable sharing my life with her. After we went through my experiences and everything, she walked me through the personality test again. She told me that my responses had been conflicting and it made it difficult to get an accurate understanding of who I am and how I function in the workplace. Turns out, I am constantly trying to become someone I’m not. Shocking. But really not at all. I find myself often admiring the qualities in others while not appreciating how God created me. After going through the whole thing with her again, I felt like I have such a better understanding of who I am and what my strengths are. Turns out, I’m not really wired to sit at a desk trapped inside four walls for nine hours a day. Not that anybody really is, but some people are able to adjust to that and excel. Emily really encouraged me to stop striving to become someone different than God created me to be. She told me that God has created each of us uniquely with different talents and gifts. And then she very honestly told me that she thought this job wasn’t really for me. She wasn’t pressuring me or anything, but she said she thought I could find something that I would enjoy more if I sought it out.
That whole conversation BLEW MY MIND. I had already been having doubts about taking the job, and then God used Emily to reassure me that there was nothing wrong with turning it down. When I got off the phone with her, I cried for awhile. Trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting, and I had been striving for so long. It was so freeing to hear her speak those words of encouragement to me from a completely unbiased perspective. I had been thinking I needed to talk to someone about it who wasn’t invested in my daily life, but I hadn’t thought to pray about it. But God knew what I needed anyway. He truly amazes me each day.
This was just an awesome moment that I wanted to share and encourage y’all to embrace who God has created you to be. You have unique talents that make you who you are, and God has gifted these to you in order for you to best glorify Him. Don’t waste them trying to be someone you’re not. I know that I’m wandering through life at the moment, but it’s only so that I might find how I can best play my role in the Kingdom. I’m not lost. I’m found in Christ, and realizing that each day is what gives my life purpose.
“Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap and be faithful even unto death? Where are those who will lose their lives for Christ’s sake, flinging them away for love of him? Where are those who will live dangerously and be reckless in his service? Where are his lovers, those who love him and the souls of men more than their own reputations or comfort or very life?
Where are the men who say ‘no’ to self, who take up Christ’s cross to bear it after him, who are willing to be nailed to it in college or office, home or mission field, who are willing, if need be, to bleed, to suffer and to die on it?
Where are the adventurers, the explorers, the buccaneers for God, who count one human soul of far greater value than the rise or fall of an empire? Where are the men who are willing to pay the price of vision?
Where are the men of prayer?
Where are God’s men in this day of God’s power?”
Howard Guinness, Sacrifice (Chicago, 1947), pages 59-60
It’s been over six months since I last posted on here….and let me tell you, it was not an easy six months. This past winter was a really rough season for me, especially spiritually. I already know that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka seasonal depression) but for some reason this year was far worse than others in the past. I think it had mostly to do with where I found myself in life. A college grad, former Young Life leader and part time employee at a restaurant. I wasn’t sure where to associate myself and couldn’t really pinpoint my identity. I had moved out of my house I lived in for three years and thus found myself without the same immediate community I had known for so long. I was going to a church that I enjoyed and where I was challenged, but had a hard time feeling part of a community since it was primarily composed of young married couples or college students. Basically, I felt like I had no purpose or direction. And that is scary when you’re only 23. I saw people around me seeking new careers, pursuing awesome ministry opportunities, getting married…and there I was.
It’s hard for me to write about this now, because I look back and see how much of a waste it was for me to sit there and throw a pity party for myself. I’m sure I wasn’t an easy person to be around-and for those of you who stuck around for it, you are amazing and I’m very thankful for our friendships. Honestly, the worst part is that the whole time I was experiencing those emotions and challenges, I knew my answer-just like I know it now: Jesus. But the thing is, in the moment it’s really hard. There were multiple times I picked up my Bible and would read a couple chapters and just not be able to feel connected to the word. I prayed…a couple of times, and then would give up when I didn’t see results. I still sought out community, but didn’t really engage with those around me. I shut myself down and resorted to a life where I worked, came home, and holed up in my apartment and watched TV for hours on end. It wasn’t very pretty.
But then, something amazing happened…God showed up anyway. He saw me in my pit of despair and reached down to me. It wasn’t a question of what was happening, I knew He was there and that He was calling to me to rescue me from living a life full of self-pity, doubt and surrender. I can even pinpoint the moment where I first felt it. I had just returned from Florida and I was reading Love Does by Bob Goff (an amazing book) and I read this passage in the book:
“There are lots of things in life you and I don’t get invited to, though. I’ve never been invited to the Oscars or to Paul McCartney’s birthday party or to a space shuttle launch. I’m waiting for my invitation to National Treasure 3. If I got an invitation to any of those things, or for that matter, to the real White House Easter egg hunt, I’d definitely go. There’s nothing like feeling included.
There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.
Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as just normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited-every day, all over again.“
Take a second and let all that sink in. When I read those words, I literally put the book down and sat there. In that moment I realized that I was throwing away this amazing invitation to live a full life with God every time that I chose to be depressed over alive in the Spirit. I could feel the Spirit stirring within me, restless. I slowly began to reawaken my heart for my Father and instantly felt comforted, loved and embraced by Him. That whole time He was just waiting for me to run back to Him.
And now here I am. Spring has come, and I feel a constant desire to be exploring, growing in friendships, and delving deeper into the Word so that I may continually be discovering more facets of my Lord’s character. It’s a good place to be, finally! I have found fellowship with people who challenge me and help me to grow. I’m part of an awesome church doing big things in this city and the world. I have a new internship with Be Ohio Proud that has given me new goals and allows me to do things I really enjoy. I’m eating healthier. I’m more active now that the warm weather has arrived. I am branching out of my norm and trying new things.
These are all good things. But I am also remembering to prepare for the spiritual warfare that could come at any time. The enemy knows the best time to strike, and this time, I won’t allow him to take a stronghold in my heart. He has held a place there for far too long. Convincing me I’m not good enough, telling me I have no purpose, making me believe I don’t deserve love. Father, give me the strength to hold your truth above any of the lies I may choose to believe! I am confident that I can be freed from these battles, but know that it can only come through my Savior. So today, I choose to accept God’s invitation to live fully. And I hope that I will continue to do so each day, because I never want to return to where I was this past winter. Today I choose joy, hope, love and purpose above doubt, self-pity and shame.
(Photo Credit: Katy Scherer)
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful place in the world. I had the absolute joy of being able to spend the entire month of August at this gorgeous camp property. I have fallen in love with upstate New York all over again, but more importantly, I fell deeper in love with my Father during the month I spent here.
I was an a.m. cook for the month, and I loved every minute of it. It was definitely hard work, and I spent most of the day inside, but the Lord taught me so many things during my time there. I also met a ton of incredible godly people who helped me grow immensely. I am very grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to serve alongside such incredible people and in such a stunning place. God is so good and faithful to me.
I learned several huge things while I was there:
- HUMILITYAs I said before, I worked in the kitchen for the month. This was prime for me to be humbled. I began my work in the kitchen with a prideful spirit of thinking I already knew all that I needed to know to get the work done. I had worked in the kitchen at this camp previously, so I did have some basic knowledge of what lied ahead. I also have worked at a restaurant the last couple years. Both of those factors really built up my pride and ultimately affected my attitude in my work. Within the first week, God really revealed to me how my manner of working was not Christ-like at all. I was working to gain praise, and trying to show my worth to those around me through my work. But go figure, they weren’t all that impressed. Within the first week I had made serving about me, completely losing sight of my whole purpose there. My focus lied solely on myself and not on God, not on loving those around me, and not really serving the campers.This is just the perfect example in my life of how even the best of things can become idols. Serving became an idol for me. Striving to become the “ultimate servant” so that others could see how hard I worked or how “good” I was. Four years ago, I was serving at Saranac on Work Crew, fresh from graduating high school. There was a guy there serving on Summer Staff named Brad. He was just one of those all around good guys that everyone liked. The thing that stuck out most to me about this guy was his willingness to serve-to humble himself and work hard in order to serve those around him. He wasn’t the most talkative guy and he never boasted in his work, he just did it to serve God. When I went on Summer Staff, I was using his example for my work while I was there. But striving to be like someone else was still serving with the wrong motives. God didn’t use me the same way he used Brad at Saranac, and that is okay. We are all created differently with different gifts for service.
There was one other awesome lesson in humility while we were there. One day during our Sabbath, we walked into the Club Room expecting to worship together in singing, but instead the assignment team and camp staff told us they wanted to wash our feet and pray for each one of us individually. We had just read John 13, and it was crazy how easy it was to relate to Peter in his reluctance to allow Jesus to wash his feet. I immediately felt unworthy to receive their service, but it was one of the most incredibly moving things to be a part of. I felt so loved and cared for by those people, and it was beautiful to see people around me that I was serving alongside being prayed for. It was so moving to see the humility of these people we had been looking up to all month, on their knees washing our feet and asking how they could pray for each one of us. This is what Christ calls us to! A life lived for Him and for those around us, where we are not the center of the world, or even our own lives. Instead, we look to how we can serve our Creator and his cherished creation with humble hearts and an attitude that is Christ-like in manner.
This was by far my biggest battle to fight during my month at Saranac. I struggle with feeling left out a lot, and just a general fear of man. It’s been something that I actively have to pray against on a daily basis, and I often feel this is where Satan attacks me the most. The month of August was no exception. In fact, it was slightly intensified with such a short amount of time to meet and grow in friendships with people. I just want everyone to like me all the time-I realize this sounds unrealistic, and I know that, but I can’t help it. If it seems that someone doesn’t really like me, I become hyper-critical of myself and analyze everything that I say and do and how they could affect the views of those around me.
During my time at Saranac I definitely never felt unloved or uncared for, however there were some people I just never really got to know. It was due mostly to the fact that we just had entirely different jobs, or maybe we didn’t ever sit together at meals. And as unreasonable as it sounds, I often found myself feeling left out. Naturally, the people who worked together all day had inside jokes and were closer. But it just really bummed me out that I didn’t get to be a part of those times. Mostly because I knew I was surrounded by all these incredible godly people, and I hardly got to know some of them. And as much as it may have sucked to have those moments of feeling left out, it allowed room for God to remind me that I don’t need to rely on the approval or acceptance of men, because I have already been fully accepted in God through the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross. It really doesn’t get much better than that!!! (John 1:12-13, Galatians 4:4-7, Romans 8:14-17)
- GOD IN EVERYTHINGAs you can probably tell from the picture above, Saranac is an absolutely gorgeous place. God’s creation is mighty! And it is so easy to witness it while at this property…between the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, the gorgeous lake, and the abundance of trees, God’s hand is undeniable. Every morning I was overwhelmed by the breathtaking sunrises that unfolded over the lake. Praise God that I was up so early every morning that I was able to witness such incredible beauty.There were days I felt God in the breeze, or basking in the sunlight or even in the sound of the wake hitting the rocks. But above all the beauty that was visible in nature, I saw God in His people!! What a blessing it was to see God’s hand at work in the hearts of hundreds of campers each week. Nothing is more astounding than getting to witness lives as they are being transformed throughout each week, or the entire month! Each week was such a fresh reminder of the gospel and how much Christ truly loves each of us. Not only did I see God in the transforming lives of the campers, but also just in the small moments. Whether it was simple words of encouragement, a high five, a smile, or some dancing (shout out to Strut-O-Clock!!) Those little moments brought me such joy, especially if I was tired or feeling worn down. Being reminded of scripture was especially life-giving because it always came right when I needed to hear it.
GOD IS ENOUGH
Seeing God’s provision for me throughout the month is just crazy! Not only was I provided with immediate community and fellowship, but each and every day the Lord provided me with the energy and strength to continue serving His purpose and calling. Looking back on the month, I saw how God was using those lessons within the month to carry home with me in my serving in every day life. I don’t think I realized how amazing His provisions were while I was a camp until I got home and remembered that I maybe slept 5 hours a night for a whole month.
God provided comfort for me in the moments of frustration and in times of hurting. I never felt alone and knew I was able to rely on God to listen to my every emotion. (John 14:18) God is my constant and because of my knowledge of that fact, I am able to rely on him to provide all the physical, emotional and spiritual needs I may have. I can rest safely and securely in His hands.
PRAYER IS POWERFUL
Wow. I don’t think I am even able to recount all the amazing outcomes of the prayers that were poured out during our time there. I usually don’t feel all that empowered through prayer, or I feel as if I’m not actually speaking directly to God. But during my time at Saranac, I was truly amazed to see fruit from all my time spent in prayer. God was there listening to each and every plea, petition and praise that was uttered from the lips of every person on property. That’s amazing! And we were so blessed to witness many, many answered prayers. We saw the lives of kids changed that had been showered in prayer before they even came to camp. I was moved to tears on at least a weekly basis because we saw answered prayers left and right in transformed hearts and new relationships. Prayers were constantly being poured over the camp and all the people within it, and we could all see it and feel it. God is good and faithful in prayer. Not every prayer was answered, but God’s timing is above any comprehension we could imagine.
it’s been quite some time since i’ve been able to find the time or motivation to write anything. school has been pretty busy, especially with graduation literally ONE WEEK away. i feel like my life is just being propelled forward into the somewhat unknown. it’s exciting, confusing and good. very good. i feel the need to really rely on God and trust him during this time because, honestly, i have no clue what else i should do. i’ve been presented with cool opportunities, and i’m having trouble discerning what course i should take. i am fully confident the Lord will bless me through whichever decision i make, but having that knowledge makes the decision even more difficult. basically, my very near future is currently completely void of definite plans. weird.
so, my current solution to handling this stress? renting a chick flick. i know it’s not gonna help me make my decision, and it’s just one more way to avoid the situation, but i’m content with my decision at this moment in time. mostly because by doing so, it reminded me of the most amazing man in my life: Jesus. i can say that there are very few times, if any, that i’ve seen the Lord work in my heart through some sappy, romantic chick flick. but, lo and behold, it happened tonight while i was watching the vow.
if you haven’t seen this movie, it’s about a husband and wife who get into a car accident and the woman loses her memory of the past five years. so when she awakens from her coma, she has no recollection of who her husband is or has any memory of their relationship/marriage. i won’t elaborate too much in case you want to watch it in the future. but, a little backstory on me and romance films-we have a love/hate relationship. i think a lot of women could say the same thing, simply because it strikes this chord in our hearts of how we should be pursued and loved by this perfect man.
NEWS FLASH! that perfect man, that pursuit, and that love are very real…and better than we could imagine! they are all found in one man: Jesus. i’m so quick to forget this in my longing for the flesh. i brush Jesus aside in hopes of this perfect man swooping in and sweeping me off my feet. truthfully, i could rip on romance films all day and all night for giving me unrealistic expectations of what a husband should look like and how i should be loved. but at the end of the day, it’s really just my sinful heart that turns away from the perfect love gifted by the Father in favor of some twisted, worldly understanding of what love should be.
this film was no different in terms of how it portrays love, and it still made me swoon and long for a husband to love me the way Leo loved Paige in this movie. but, you know what? i was actually able to attribute qualities within their marriage to my own relationship with Jesus.
the most prominent example was how Leo pursued Paige even when she was confused and lost in her own mind. she was afraid of him and was unsure of his love for her. she didn’t know him and she didn’t fully trust him to care for her and provide what she needed at the time. so instead, she turns to her family. a place that she knew and felt comfortable. as i’m typing this, i can think of plenty of instances where i’ve done the same thing in my relationship with the Lord. there are times when i turn away when i am scared, when i feel lost and confused. i turn to my comforts. i turn to what i know, and what i trust to make me feel better.
in this time of confusion for Paige, at first Leo pursues her. he tries to get her to return to him and remember their life together. however, after some time, he backs off. in the film, it’s mostly him surrendering because he doesn’t know what else to do. however, for the purpose of my metaphor, i saw it as him giving her space to find him on her own, when she was ready.
let me be clear in saying i firmly believe that Jesus is always in pursuit of my heart and the hearts of every other human in creation. but, i do think that this pursuit can look different at different times or periods in our lives and relationship with the Lord. in my relationship with my God, there have been times when Christ has been obvious in his pursuit of my heart. i feel his love poured out for me and the knowledge of his love for me is great. but there have also been times where i’ve felt his love for me in the fact that i must seek him out and discover new qualities of his character. i am thankful for both of these times in my relationship with Jesus. i learn, i grow and ultimately i fall deeper and deeper in love with my Creator.
and the greatest knowledge of God’s love for me? it never fails. it is constant. it is unending. it is merciful. it is forgiving. it is full. it is unwavering. it is life. i am the bride of Jesus Christ and no earthly marriage will outweigh that truth. i can watch as many sappy romance films as i want about love and marriage, but none of them can compare to the love and marriage we were created to experience with our God, Father, Creator. he is our bridegroom. and he will not leave us. ever. i can rest in that truth.
today, as i was going about my normal procrastination rounds, i stumbled across this article. the good women project shared it on their twitter and i found so much encouragement in reading it. i don’t want to re-post the whole article, but do want to highlight one part:
“I want to be known for more than how I look. I want to be sought after for the way that I love, for my capacity to inspire, for big faith and my ability to speak some sort of truth with both amazing confidence and soft tenderness. I want to be pursued because I am an undeniable person of passion, a woman of distinction worth getting to know because I care more about making my corner of the world so much better than I do about making my face fit an ideal I know I’ll never be good enough for.
I want to trade shallow aesthetics in for a bottomless ocean that never runs dry. I want people to see my heart, all its gruesome glory, and my spirit, with its never-ending persistence to try. I want people to smile when they look at me, with or without the lipstick on, because they associate me with something more than can be seen.
I want to possess something that lasts, even if all the pretty is beaten out of me. I want to be beautiful and I think that I could be. I think – somewhere deep down, I truly believe – that I am.”
such a blessing to have read those words today. so often i find myself discouraged by my appearance and thinking i’m not anywhere close to being beautiful. i strive for words of affirmation about my looks, but never seek them about my spirit. it is reinforced throughout the Bible, including two of my favorite verses, 1 Peter 3:3-4 and Proverbs 31:30, that a beautiful spirit is far superior to external beauty. i want to be a woman who fears the Lord, loves others fiercely, and willing to give my life away in obedience to whatever God calls me to. i want to be open with others about my struggles, my hopes, my fears and my doubts. i want to be deeply invested in all of my relationships and seek to fill my life with people who will constantly challenge me in a loving, Christ-like manner. i want to stop believing the lie that i can only be loved based on how i look.
it would be a straight up lie for someone to say they do not struggle with sin. it is a daily war we wage against the flesh and the worldly desires we so avidly chase after for some sense of fulfillment and pleasure. i myself know this is a struggle i will face everyday for the rest of this life on the earth. do i choose Christ? or do i choose the lies and temporal satisfaction i think will satisfy me in a moment of temptation?
depending on the day, i can run up a pretty hefty list of sins: some are habitual and enslaving and i have found very difficult to break free from. some have to do with the way i view myself and compare myself to other girls. some days it has to do with the way i speak to others. some days it’s how angry or impatient i am with others. some days it’s hate. some days it is my refusal to give up my idolatrous heart and surrender to God. some days it’s all of the above and more.
however, the beauty of the gospel is that these i am cleansed of these sins. Christ fulfilled forgiveness for my sins by his position on the cross. he died that i might know freedom from the sin that threatens to enslave me. i have been pouring into 1 Peter lately, and one of my favorite verses is found in chapter 2 verse 24.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
there is so much power in that verse. Christ was victorious in overcoming not just my sins, but the sins of the entire world. he died that i may live. in Christ i can experience freedom from the sin that i so often allow to bog me down. some days i feel so defeated by my sinfulness and feel like i am helpless and hopeless in my state. but that’s a lie. there is always freedom in Christ and always forgiveness for my sins. all i have to do is seek Christ and his righteousness. how freeing to recall!
a quote from Richard Lovelace was an insert in the book i am currently reading (Holiness By Grace by Bryan Chapell-check it out! so good) i read this passage last night before i went to bed, and i found it so encouraging-especially in my struggle to overcome the same habitual sins that plague me when i seek comfort:
“God’s gracious provision for our needs includes God’s grace for sanctification as well as for justification. It is not enough to tell believers, ‘You are accepted through your faith in Christ.’ We must tell them also, ‘You are delivered from the bondages of sin through the power of the indwelling Christ…’
In order to combat this sense of helplessness before the binding power of indwelling sin, believers should first be assured that sanctification, like justification, is grounded in union with Christ. The power of sin to rule their lives has been destroyed in the cross of Christ; we have died with Christ, and have been raised up together with him in newness of life. Therefore, we are not to set the estimates of our power to conquer sin according to past experiences of our will power, but are to fix our attention on Christ and the power of his risen life in which we participate; for we have died and our life is now hidden with Christ in God…This power is accessible in our experience through faith, not through simple striving of the will.”
i so often try to overcome my sins and my struggles on my own. thinking that if i just muster up enough power to resist temptation, that i will not fall to the desires of the flesh. obviously, this always fails me. i have to look to Christ. i have to remember to preach the gospel of grace to myself everyday. i have to pursue holiness by pursuing my Redeemer. for he is my hope and my strength and my love. him and him alone.
“I am not bound to past or present sin. Tomorrow doesn’t have to be like today.”-Bryan Chapell
i was listening to john mark mcmillan this morning and this song came up in my shuffle. how fitting. and lovely to be reminded of (lyrics below)
All our sins are stones /At the bottom of your oceans/And all our filthy stains/Have been washed away
By the blood of a son/I have overcome the grave/By the blood of a son/I have overcome the grave/The grave
Recompense is made for/The guilty and the shamed/For eternity is gained/In the arms of the slain
By the blood of a son/I have overcome the grave/By the blood of a son/I have overcome the grave/The grave
Oh my soul/Praise him/Oh my soul
By the blood of a son/I have overcome the grave/By the blood of a son/I have overcome the grave/The grave
Oh my soul/Praise him/Oh my soul